Looking at Erin Kehoe in the spring of 2011, one would think a different player is on the field this fall.
Kehoe transferred from Loyola University Chicago that spring because of the academics and exceptional soccer program offered at Penn State. Penn State coach Erica Walsh said Kehoe has improved greatly since her arrival.
“Coming from a different school to this one is a huge difference… It’s a lot faster and a lot more competitive. I would say it’s a lot more fun,” Kehoe said. “I knew that if I was going to play in college, I would want to go big, so I decided to, and it was definitely worth it.”
As a junior defender for the Nittany Lions, Kehoe has been a vital part of the 2012 season, and the team’s 15th consecutive Big Ten title.
“It is a lot more fun just to go on the trips and be involved,” Kehoe wrote in an email. “Because I've had more playing time this year, I feel that I actually helped the team and made an impact in all the games to win the Big Ten championship title.”
Racking up about 700 minutes of playing time this season, Kehoe has been able to make a larger impact on the team this year. She has played in 19 of the team’s 20 games, scoring a goal and dishing out two assists. She is working with underclassmen to help them and training to become a premier player within the program.
“Erin Kehoe is one of the best soccer players we have on this team. She is so talented,” Walsh said. “I think that her future in this program is very bright if she continues to invest in herself.”
As a transfer student, it took time for Kehoe to transition into the kind of play required at Penn State. Kehoe works with a group of freshmen during pregame warm-ups, which are all in a similar position she was in when she first started.
“I really enjoy interacting with them and getting to know them. They’re a fun group of girls,” Kehoe said.
“I think for her to give some of the young, talented players hope and excitement for the future, and for her to be able to say, ‘I was right where you were this time last year, and these are the things I had to go through, and I’m better off for it,’” Walsh said.
Since her transfer, Kehoe has been preparing to get minutes on the field by working on her fitness training and making improvements. Kehoe spent the past summer in State College focusing on her fitness for the upcoming season to give herself an opportunity to impact the team as much as possible.
“This year, [Kehoe] has invested more in herself, and I’m really proud of her. That’s why we took her in the first place,” Walsh said. “We could see that she had great tactics and a great mind and a big personality, and we need her on this team.”
The Nittany Lions will end their regular season on Friday against Purdue, and then begin preparation for postseason play.
“The team is really looking forward to postseason because it is where we can really prove ourselves to everyone and show what our team is all about. Postseason is where all of our hard work and preparation over the past nine months will pay off,” Kehoe wrote.
Kehoe said this year the team uses the saying ‘there are different horses for different courses” in preparing for their next opponent.
“Depending on the opponent and challenge they present us depends on what type of players we need to win that game,” Kehoe said. “I obviously would love to get a lot of playing time in the playoff games… but if I don't, I will still support all my teammates on and off the field and from the bench because for that particular game, that may be my role.”
Kehoe’s experience as both an active player on the field and her support from the sidelines gives her an exclusive position on the team.
“One of the reasons I think Erin is so unique right now is she understands what it means to sit on the bench,” Walsh said. “You need someone who has fought their way… and she has earned every minute of playing time that she has gotten.”
Next year, in her senior season, Kehoe hopes to continue her mentorship position on the team.
“Next season my goal would be to make my role even bigger on this team and lead the underclassmen as they transition from high school to college in not only athletics but academics,” Kehoe said.